At first glance, the South American polka dot tree frog may seem ordinary.
But first impressions aren’t always correct, as we all know.
Researchers in Argentina recently decided to shine an ultraviolet light on this particular frog and were shocked to discover that the South American polka dot tree frog actually glows in the dark!
Under the light, the frog glowed bright blue-green. In a recent paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers revealed that the discovery has been unprecedented in amphibians.
Fluorescence has been previously documented in certain fishes, sea turtles, and even parrots, but not in amphibians.
The chemical compounds that cause the grog to glow consist of a new chemistry. According to an article in Nature, three molecules — hyloin-L1, hyloin-L2 and hyloin-G1 — in the animals’ lymph tissue, skin and glandular secretions are responsible for the green fluorescence. The molecules contain a ring structure and a chain of hydrocarbons, and are unique among known fluorescent molecules in animals.
There are other frogs with similar body structures and transparent skin, so the new discovery suggests that frog fluorescence is likely more common than scientists previously thought.
How beautiful it would be to come across a forest of these fluorescent frogs!
Feature photo by Julián Faivovich and Carlos Taboada